Supreme Court won’t take up homeless camping case

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- The solution to the homeless problem just got more complicated for cities across the United States.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not review a lower court’s decision to protect a homeless person’s right to camp on streets and in public parks when there is no shelter available.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco made that decision more than a year ago, ruling in favor of plaintiffs in the case of Robert Martin v. the city of Boise. Currently, it is not a crime for homeless people to sleep outside because of the court’s decision.

“The plaintiffs are saying this is a huge social problem and criminal punishment directed at those who are so vulnerable and basically have no choices makes no sense,” said University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law professor John Sims. “And if they decide not to hear it, they typically do what they did today, is they don’t explain. They just say, 'We’re not going to hear it.'”

Sims said often the Supreme Court will decide not to take up a case. That means an earlier ruling remains the law of the land.

“We don’t know if the Supreme Court agrees with what the 9th Circuit did. We don’t know if they disagree,” Sims explained. “We don’t know what any particular justice thinks about it. All we really know is that there weren’t four justices that thought that it was a good idea to have the Supreme Court to review the case.”

Sacramento city and county officials both said they were already in compliance with the ruling. So, logistically, nothing will change with enforcement.

A lot of cities agreed with Boise that this was an important case that they wanted the Supreme Court to review -- but that support did little to persuade the justices.

“We didn’t know if they would review it, if they wouldn’t review it, and even if they did it would take, potentially, years for anything to change,” said Sacramento County spokeswoman Janna Haynes. “And so, we’re just operating as we have been.”

While Sims said it is now unlikely the Supreme Court will ever hear the case that does not mean it will never have to rule on the issue, especially if a future case comes up with an opposite ruling.

“A year or two or 10 from now, there will be some case that will be talking about these issues that will go to the Supreme Court,” Sims told FOX40.

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